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The pope’s reward for Russia’s historic empire attracts sharp criticism.


In feedback made by video to Catholic youth in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday, Pope Francis praised 18th-century Russian rulers and the Nice Russia they helped create — an empire that President Vladimir V. Putin has invoked in framing his invasion of Ukraine.

“Always remember the legacy,” Francis mentioned. “You’re the heirs of nice Russia: nice Russia of saints, rulers, nice Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that empire — nice, enlightened, of nice tradition and nice humanity.”

The pope, who was ending his deal with on the closing of a convention centered on the church’s younger members in St. Petersburg, had shifted from his ready remarks in Spanish to induce the viewers in Italian to maintain historical past in thoughts, in line with Reuters. The Vatican launched solely the ready remarks, however a clip circulated later by non secular businesses confirmed him making the extra feedback.

Whereas for the previous yr Francis has been persistently supportive of peace and the Ukrainians he has referred to as “martyrs” within the battle towards Russia’s invading forces, his feedback had been rapidly criticized in Ukraine and different nations close to Russia that was a part of the Soviet Union.

“It is rather unlucky that Russian grand-state concepts, which, actually, are the reason for Russia’s power aggression, knowingly or unknowingly, come from the Pope’s mouth,” Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s International Ministry, wrote on Fb.

The previous Estonian president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, wrote on the X platform, beforehand referred to as Twitter, that the remarks had been “really revolting.”

Mr. Putin — who final yr in contrast himself to Peter the Nice — has over the previous 18 months used the concept of rebuilding the Russian empire to border the invasion of Ukraine, which was a Soviet state till 1991, when the usS.R. was dissolving. He has additionally portrayed the invasion as an effort “to place an finish to the warfare that was unleashed by the West,” as he put it final week.

The pope’s ready speech, launched in a Vatican bulletin that didn’t point out his ultimate statements, revolved across the significance of younger individuals constructing bridges between generations.

“I invite you to be sowers, to sow seeds of reconciliation, tiny seeds that on this wintertime of warfare won’t germinate for the second on frozen floor, however in a future spring will flourish,” the Vatican transcript learn.

Within the early months of the battle, Francis appeared to keep away from selecting sides and shunned overtly criticizing the Russian president or the warfare’s chief non secular backer, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church. In Might, after a video convention with Kirill, Francis modified course and warned Kirill to not “remodel himself into Putin’s altar boy.”

On Monday, the Vatican issued a press release saying that the pontiff by no means takes a political stance and that his phrases “are to be learn as a voice raised in protection of human life and the values connected to it.”

It maintained that the pope all the time condemned a “morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, mindless, repugnant and sacrilegious” warfare.

A peace envoy despatched by the pope, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, has traveled to Ukraine, Russia and the US to facilitate peace talks over the summer season.


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